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 21, 2015

Guru's College Report: Princeton and Penn Sweep Dartmouth and Harvard

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It takes a basketball legend to know one in the making and a homegrown notable dropped in on 16th-ranked and unbeaten Princeton’s latest rout Friday night when the Tigers completed a sweep of Dartmouth, beating their own coach’s alma mater 70-31.

Among the homecoming crowd of 1,066 in Jadwin Gym was former Tigers men’s great Bill Bradley, the standout of the Ivy contingent that was ranked third in the nation in 1965 when they advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

Princeton is celebrating the 50th anniversary of that group this weekend.

Bradley, a former star on the NBA New York Knicks and former United States senator who took a brief run at the presidency and who is depicted in a statue of himself by Jadwin, is the latest political notable to pay a visit to the Princeton locker room.

Early in the season Michelle Obama, the First Lady, was on the scene in Washington to watch her niece freshman Leslie Robinson, the daughter of another former Princeton men’s star in Craig Robinson when the Tigers visited American University.

“It’s just crazy to have someone of Bill Bradley’s stature who wants to see this team … “ Banghart said. “He just told them in there, `I’ve seen a lot of basketball games and been part of a lot of teams, I really like this team because it’s a team.

“I like how you share the ball. I like how you are for each other, I like the way you move your feet on defense, I like the backdoor passes, the press passes,’ so you can tell he likes the team for the reasons that we’re trying to build. So it’s a real treat.”

Who knows what post-graduate roles the future has in store for the current group of Tigers women’s stars for them to return here some day to impart wisdom to their court successors but right now they are just enjoying the ride that is bringing national attention on their record 24-0 overall run that is exceeded in both Ivy genders by just the 28-0 start of the 1970-71 Penn men’s team.

Princeton is also the last unbeaten Division I women's squad and the only Ivy team ever nationally ranked.

Friday’s win brought the Ivy victory total this season to 8-0 and and delivered Banghart to just one win short of matching Joan Kowalik’s program-record total of 163 wins.

That could come as early as Saturday when Harvard arrives for the 6 p.m. start. Should it occur, Banghart’s chance to stand alone at the top of the program will come at home next weekend when Yale visits Friday night at 7 p.m.

This one was over quickly, as all of the league encounters have been but last weekend’s visit to Yale, and Alex Wheatley from nearby lower Bucks County, Pa., in the Philadelphia northern suburbs, had a game-high 20 points.

Michelle Miller scored 12 while Annie Tarakchian just missed a triple double scoring 11 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dealing 8 assists.

On the other side, no one on improved Dartmouth (11-12, 2-7 Ivy) did anything in double figures other than three sets of field goal attempts that had Larkin Roland, Fanni Szabo, and Milica Toskovic combine for 4-for-32 while as a team the Big Green shot 18.9 percent.

Roland and reserve Andi Norman each scored team highs of nine points, respectively.

The Tigers dominated the boards with a 53-21 rebounding advantage resulting in a 42-8 differential scoring in the paint while Princeton’s differential in second chance points resulted in a 12-2 comparison. As far as fastbreak points, it was a 14-0 wipeout.

With it all former Princeton athletic director Gary Walters, who retired last season, and played with Bradley, cautioned, “Don’t assume anything. Let’s win it first before discussing selection night and all that stuff.

“That team I was on that we’re celebrating this weekend had a loss in the Ivy League.”

OK. Then let’s go to the math for those who like the magic number countdown route.

Dartmouth’s loss officially knocked the Big Green back with Columbia as two of the Ancient’s Eight’s other seven who have been mathematically eliminated from contention.

Harvard (10-13, 3-6), which fell to Penn Friday night at The Palestra, and Brown (9-14, 3-6), which fell to Columbia, can be eliminated as early as Saturday night when the Crimson visit here and Brown goes to Cornell.

Speaking of the Big Red, the latter team just mentioned, they put Yale (11-12, 5-4) near the brink of elimination, which Princeton can also take care of personally next Friday.

That leaves Cornell (15-8, 6-3) and Penn (15-7, 6-2) with the ability to hang around for a while, especially since the two are fighting it out to at least finish second for the automatic qualifier for the WNIT, though the way both teams are playing, if one finished third behind the other they are likely to get an at-large invite.

Incidentally, Walters was asked what it was he liked when he hired Banghart, to which he responded, “I always like former great players and if you look at who I hired in the athletic department, Courtney’s hire was consistent with the others I hired.”
Speaking of former great players, former Princeton star Addie Micir, now an assistant at Dartmouth, got a nice applause when she was especially introduced at the start of the game along with the five starters of each team.

Penn Conquers Harvard

It wasn’t that long ago that the Dartmouth/Harvard or vice versa back-to-back weekends were the dread of dreads for Penn in the Ivy race, particularly Harvard.

These days with Penn’s improvement under Mike McLaughlin, the combo trip to play Princeton and the Quakers have become a Bermuda Triangle to swallow visitors traveling to the Southern tier of the league.

Penn brought Harvard to the brink of Ivy elimination Friday with a 71-61 victory that kept the Quakers alone in second place ahead of Cornell, though a big two games behind the Tigers.

Nevertheless, unlike last season when Penn upset Princeton on the final day at Jadwin Gym to grab the Ivy title, the race may be over when Princeton visits the Palestra on March 10 for the season finale, but there’s still the chance that the Quakers will be all that stands in the way of the Tigers’ shot at finishing perfect.

But for now, Penn is just focused on the moment each time out.

Next up is Dartmouth’s visit Saturday night at 7 p.m., which is also the annual Penn Play4Kay game when the Quakers don their pink uniforms to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer.

Added to the dispatched list Friday night is a second straight season sweep of Harvard by the Quakers, matching the effort of the 2002-05 run. The 1999-2001 era brought five straight W’s over the Crimson.

The triumph made the Penn seniors the all time winningest class in program history with 68 to surpass the 67 triumphs by the Class of 2003 group that also had an Ivy title in its collection.

As for McLaughlin, after a meager start following his arrival from Division II national power Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia, where he became the fastest coach anywhere in collegiate basketball to get to 400 wins, Friday’s triumph finally got him to .500 in the Ivies in his sixth season.

His start brought a 1-15 mark against the league and then 12-33. Since then, he is 27-6 overall in the Ivies and if one would subtract the Princeton games in that span, he is 26-3 for a .900 percentage.

As for Friday’s performance details, for a while it didn’t seem that Michelle Nwokedi out of Texas would see enough time to be a fifth straight freshman of the year honoree for the Quakers.

But the newcomer has climbed into the hunt since becoming a starter several weeks ago.

On Friday, Nwokedi had another double double with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Sydney Stipanovich had 12 of her 17 points in the second half and she also had seven rebounds and blocked three shots.

Anna Ross had 14 points, repeating the freshman’s only other double digit scoring game to date, which was also against Harvard on the trip to Boston last month.

Kathleen Roche scored 14 points.

Just as Princeton did a defensive clamp job on Dartmouth, likewise Penn went a stretch of 10 minutes denying Harvard any field goals.

AnnMarie Healy had a double double for Harvard with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Erin McDonnell scored 13, and Kit Metoyer scored 14 points.

Villanova Foiled at St. John’s

In the only other game involving one of the Guru’s 10-team local Division I PhilahoopsW teams, Villanova was edged by a revenge-seeking St. John’s squad in a Big East game in Jamaica, N.Y., near Manhattan in Carneseca Arena.

The 56-51 setback came after the Wildcats (16-11, 10-5 Big East) had shot the lights out at home in the Pavilion last month against the Red Storm (18-8, 9-6).

Emily Leer had 13 points for the visitors while Caroline Coyer scored 10 while Taylor Holeman grabbed 10 rebounds.

But Villanova was unable to stop Aliyyah Handford, who had a game-high 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Consequently now the Wildcats must try to get a season split Sunday at rejuvenated Seton Hall at 2 p.m. at Walsh Gym in South Orange, N.J., to have any hope to remain in the Big East regular season hunt.

Villanova is still in third but trails DePaul and Seton Hall by two games and is just one game in front of St. John’s, which next plays Georgetown.

Jade Walker added 10 points while Aaliyah Lewis also scored 10 points for St. John’s.

“This the first time in a while we had the fire and sharpness we needed to win a big game and that showed a lot for us,” said St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella.

"The way we defended tonight has defined us all year.”

Villanova at the outset looked like it was going to blaze away again, making six of its first seven shots..

At one point in the first half, the Wildcats led by eight and held a slim one-point lead at the break.

There were swings both ways in the second half and a 10-0 run gave Villanova a 46-42 advantage with 7:55 left in regulation before St. John’s went back in front with a 6-0 run.

The game was deadlocked 50-50 in the last minute when Handford drove for two for the home team.

Crystal Simmons had a chance to make it a four-point lead but after missing the front end of a one-and-one Walker got an offensive rebound and took care of business knocking down two foul shots to make it 54-50 with 26.9 seconds left.

The winners got their final points at the line after Villanova hit one foul shot for its last point.

The Wildcats have nine losses which have come from a total combination of 34 points.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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