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, February 08, 2015

Guru's College Report: Penn Blasts Columbia While Princeton Gains Top Spot in the Ivies

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Penn celebrated futures night, veterans’ night, and comeback night all rolled into one Saturday at the Palestra as the Quakers dominated Columbia 78-57 in an Ivy game that also saw the winners do another rewrite into the existing era of coach Mike McLaughlin.

Meanwhile, just a little to the north with the ease of a thoroughbred pursuing the Triple Crown, 18th-ranked Princeton surged ahead to the front of the Ivy pack via 75-47 win over Cornell (13-7, 4-2 Ivy) at home at Jadwin Gym to complete a weekend sweep and remain alongside top-ranked South Carolina (22-0) nationally as the last two Division I unbeaten teams.

The Gamecocks, however, are now less than two days ahead of a visit to two-time defending champion Connecticut for the nationally-televised 1 vs. 2 intersectional matchup Monday night at the Huskies’ Gampel Pavilion on the UConn campus in Storrs.

Yale fell 65-55 at Harvard and is now 11-9 and 5-1 overall leaving the Tigers as the last Ivy team with a perfect league mark.

Earlier in the day two other of the Guru’s local 10-team PhilahoopsW teams saw action with Temple dropping a 77-63 game to Tulane in New Orleans in The American Conference while across town here La Salle made two foul shots just before time expired to edge Massachusetts 71-69 in an Atlantic-10 game at the Explorers’ Tom Gola Arena.

Since the Guru’s split visits this weekend involving the two local Ivy teams takes precedence, the report starts out of The Palestra where Penn (12-7, 3-2 Ivy) dusted itself off from Friday’s tough upset loss at home to Cornell and powered through Columbia (6-14, 0-6).

Down 21-20 the irony of the moment saw freshman Michelle Nwokedi of Texas, who was making her first start, nail two foul shots to get Penn on a 33-12 run to the end of the half, highlighted by a hailstorm of three-pointers and the Quakers were up 53-33 at the break and never threatened again.

That is one short of the program record set in 1999.

The 53-point half was also the best offensive production in the six-year era of McLaughlin, who a little over 12 months ago made another lineup change involving a newcomer by placing Sydney Stipanovich in the starting lineup and she went on to become his fourth straight freshman to be named Big Five rookie of the year.

Penn also rolled to their third-ever Ivy title with the upset at Princeton in the final game of the regular season.

This time, following Friday’s struggle, a consecutive Ivy title has become virtually impossible and Nwokedi, who had a career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds and blocked seven shots, may not have seen enough action to join the rookie rewards club of the Quakers.

However, there’s no question a star was born, so to speak, who could very well bring more team hardware to the Penn trophy case before she graduates. Indeed Saturday’s performance may land another Ivy rookie of the week award.

“We obviously made a lot of shots – we made eight threes in the first half – but the ball movement was much better,” McLaughlin said. “We got space. We made shots. It was a great improvement.

The Penn total in the first half was more than the Quakers’ entire score in the loss to Cornell.

“Michelle is now going to start, we moved Kara (Bonenberger) to the wing, and she showed pretty well tonight,” McLaughlin said.

“That was the best man-to-man defense we played all year,” he continued.

He talked more about the lineup change and Nwokedi..

“She’s got great skill. She’s long. She catches every ball close to her. She’s understanding of the college game, the pace and all. I think she’s made tremendous strides. As I said to anyone who listens, she’s going to have a tremendous career here at Penn and she’s off to a good start. The sky’s the limit.”

Though the Ivy title is inherently out of reach, given Princeton’s dominance, Penn is very much in the race for second to get the automatic bid as the Ivy runners-up to the WNIT and if the Quakers fall just short of that they may still have enough to land an at-large bid in the field.

“As I told the players, I can’t let them get caught up in what other teams are doing,” McLaughlin said. “What their records are. We’re keeping score for Penn. That’s all that really matters.

“We’re just going to fight everyone we play, add them all up at the end. We understand what’s going on. We’re OK with it. We handled this game and on to the next game. I’m proud of our girls for understanding that.”

Bonenberger, a senior, reached her 1,000th point during the second half and finished with 12 – she needed 10 for the milestone – and she also grabbed nine rebounds.

She said she was aware she was getting close to the magic number.

“My girlfriend last week told me how many I need. And the whole family and our friends were here tonight to see it,” Bonenberger said.

She wasn’t the only veteran to make the highlights coverage.

Sister classmate Kathleen Roche had five treys during the first half surge and scored 15 points.
Stipanovich had 17 points, seven rebounds, and blocked another shot.

Beth Brzozowski dealt 10 assists, the most double digit stat in the category since Erin Ladley dealt 13 exactly 14 years ago this weekend during another Ivy championship season.

Columbia did put up some individual numbers of note as Tori Oliver scored 24 points while Camille Zimmerman had 12 points and eight rebounds. Alexa Giuliano scored 13 points.

Next week Penn heads to Yale and Brown on Friday and Saturday and could catch Yale back in the runnerup spot considering traveling partner Princeton is making the same trip in reverse with the Friday visit to Brown in Providence, R.I., and then to Yale in New Haven, Conn., the next night.

Princeton Crushes Cornell

So much for the worries over the Big Red’s appearance after the Tigers got word Friday night of Cornell’s upset of Penn.

The Tigers (21-0, 5-0 Ivy) routed Cornell 75-47 and now move all alone in front of the pack, a game in front of Yale, which lost 65-55, at Harvard, and two each ahead of Penn and Cornell.

The magic number countdown is under way and the Tigers could still be putting distance near the end of the race and already part of the official NCAA field while still trying to finish the regular season with the best unbeaten men’s or women’s squad in Ivy history – topping the 1970-71 Penn men who won their first 28 games.

Alex Wheatley, who might be the latest Tiger to get Ivy player of the week, and Michelle Miller each scored 14 points as Princeton has now caught its own program all-time win streak set in 2009-10. Miller is also a candidate for the Ivy weekly honor in light of her 11 rebonds.

Taylor Williams added 10 points and blocked four shots. Ten of Miller’s came in the first half that ended with a Tigers lead of 35-17 after holding Cornell to 8-for-33 percent shooting from the field (24.2 percent).

Nia Marshall scored 14 points for the Big Red (13-7, 4-2) while Nicholle Aston scored 12, and Kerri Morgan scored 11.

The home team had a 42-29 rebounding advantage.

Temple Topped by Tulane

The Owls (11-13, 7-4 American) missed a chance at getting to .500 overall and fell to a fourth-place tie in the loss column with Tulsa, whom they next on Tuesday, on their current brief road trip in The American that saw them stop in New Orleans Saturday.

Tulane (18-5, 9-3) is in third behind second-ranked Connecticut, which hasn’t lost in American play and South Florida. Temple’s losses have been to the teams in front, though if the NCAA takes two at-large teams, the Owls could land an automatic bid to the wNIT, though if they get over .500 they could land an at-large bid as well.

Erica Coville had 20 points and seven rebounds for Temple to go with a pair of assists and also two steals.

Alliya Butts had another big game with 19 points in her freshman season while newcomer Tanaya Atkinson had 12 points.

Throughout the game Temple runs to get ahead of the Green Wave were countered by longer ones from Tulane, which was comfortably ahead 45-26 at the half.

Cropper Saves La Salle

Alicia Cropper, who finished with nine points, dropped two foul shots with 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation to enable the Explorers to prevail over Massachusetts 71-69 at their Tom Gola Arena in an Atlantic 10 matchup.

The win occurred just after Wednesday’s Big Five loss at Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday.

However, freshman Amy Griffin had 17 points fueled by her 8-for-12 shooting from the field for La Salle (12-11, 3-7).

Micahya Owens scored 12 points, which were collected in the second half, while Siobhan Beslow and Ebony Wells scored 10 apiece.

Kim Pierre-Louis, who was a previous national player of the week this season as awarded by the United States Basketball Writers Association, had 33 points for Massachusetts (8-1`4, 2-8), with 23 coming in the first half.

The Explorers next host Duquesne on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The top two teams in the Atlantic 10 battle Sunday when first-place and No. 24 George Washington, the only remaining conference unbeaten, battles preseason favorite Dayton at home at noon in the Smith Center in the nation’s capital.

The Colonials had a narrow win over the Flyers to start the league race last month and never team has lost since.

Division II: Traub Becomes USciences All-Timer as Devils Keep Win Streak Alive

Brainne Traub became the all-time scorer for USciences in a 71-43 win over Concordia at the Devis’ Bobby Morgan Arena in Southwest Philadelphia.

The Devils also have been playing annually as a unit in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer League in suburban Hatboro, Pa., which is legal for Division II squads under NCAA rules.

Traub from Wayne, N.J., was nine short of Shelby Rance’s USciences record and took care of personal business ealry with a pair of treys and a layup in the first three minutes and then after a brief rest scored again to set the mark, which became 1,945 after she finished with 14 points at the end of the Devils’ 15th straight win.

That streak is also a USciecnes’ best nad propelled the Devils to 17-4 overall and 12-1 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference,where they clinched a playoff spot in their previous outing. The Clippers fell to 3-17 overall and 3-10 in the conference.

Jessica Sylvester was the top scorer on the day as the Devils’ other star had a game-high 22 points.

Like Traub, USciences decided the issue early in their latest conference matchup by going 14-2 at the outset.

The Devils next head to Delaware, the state, to meet Wilmington University on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Looking Ahead

Drexel will try to recover from Friday’s double overtime loss on Sunday when the second-place Dragons host front-running and conference unbeaten James Madison in a Colonial Athletic Association game at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Coach Denise Dillon’s squad is three behind the Duchesses so this may be more about testing what it might do against JMU if they meet next month in the conference tourney held again at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., near Washington, D.C.

Delaware will try to make it four straight when the Blue Hens host UNCW in a CAA game at home in the bobo Carpenter Center.

The program as part of homecoming weekend held an alumni game Saturday and former star point guard Christine KorenMotta, the oldest player in the game, dealt nine points, more notable since recently graduated superstar Elena Delle Donne,Class of 2013, was not on the scene in the post to receive her passes.

One of Delle Donne’s classmate point guards Lauren Carrera did play while the other Kayla Miller this season is coaching St. Mark’s High in Wilmington.

Carrera is doing radio analysis this season, replacing KorenMotta who was promoted from her day job to the senior staff in the athletic department and is also now the school’s Senior Women’s Administrator.

Meanwhile in the Big Ten, in terms of the local squads, No. 21 Rutgers is at Michigan, looking to move up in the polls and standings, while Penn State visits Purdue.

Saint Joseph’s, looking to follow its recent Wednesday win at home over La Salle to gain a piece of the Big Five crown as a trichampion with Villanova and first-time Penn, will host fordham in an A-10 game ss the Hawks, preseason picked to finish third before the injuries hit, try to advance in standings through the remaining weeks leading to next month’s conference tourney in Richmond, Va.

Villanova, after being off a week, tries to stay in the upper portion of the Big East standings, when the Wildcats visit Georgetown at 5 p.m. in Washington, D.C.

No one plays on Monday, the night that features an 8 p.m. contest between top-ranked and unbeaten South Carolina, coached by Dawn Staley, and No. 2 Connecticut, as the teams are slated to play on a day heavy snow is forecast for the Hartford area.

The schools are playing at the Huskies’ campus arena in Storrs.

The Guru has scheduled himself to attend but will have to see if leeway exists to travel up to the Nutmeg State.

The Temple game has been mentioned for Tuesday, which on the same night has Rutgers down at No. 5 Maryland in the second matchup of the season with the Terps, who are unbeaten in Big Ten play. Both teams are new to the league this season.

The Guru also still has plans to be on College Park for the 9 p.m. start.

That’s it for the moment. The Guru will be tweeting from Drexel and then figuring out coping with the weather dynamics for Connecticut. There will be a report in the next 24 hours on Sunday’s action.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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