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 20, 2016

Guru's NCAA Women: Penn Ousted by Washington's Fourth Quaker Attack

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru @BlueStarMedia1

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Conversing with the TV folks 48 hours earlier, Washington women's basketball coach Mike Neighbors noted that he and his staff have a book containing quite a deep list of scripted plays that they use from the get-go until the opposition causes them to start using alternatives.

So following the seventh-seeded Huskies' 65-53 win over Ivy champion Penn, the 10th seed, that did not get that wide until the fourth quarter here Saturday afternoon in a Lexington (Ky.) subregional of the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament, Neighbors was asked how far down the line did his crew get before the Quakers caused Plan A to be tossed aside.

 "Third possession," Neighbors said with a slight laugh. "They are a great coach (Mike McLaughlin) with a great team and they had us just a little discombobulated. So we got off the script pretty fast.

"About three plays in, we decided, `OK. Let Kelsey (Plum) get going in transition, stop calling plays. I don't want her over there looking at me.' I want her to get us going. I thought that got us into a better flow.

"Sometimes we over coach this game and you over prepare and you do all those things. So three possessions in, the book never came open after that except for the last play. We ran a sideline play to score. That's the last time I went to the book, I think."

The only commonality Penn (24-5) had this time with its last visit as Ivy champions two seasons ago to the University Maryland's Xfinity Center (previously called the Comcast Center), is the Quakers were not in awe of the moment.

 In 2014, Penn built a big lead in the first half against Texas until the Longhorns' talent took over in the second half. This time around the game with the Huskies (23-10) of the Pac-12 Conference was one of a closely fought nature similar to the Quakers' two epic wins over Ivy-rival Princeton and several others to land a trip back here.

But Washington, paced by junior guard Plum, who carried the best scoring average of all the players in the 64-team field, shook off the 13-7 opening quarter deficit, and powered away in the final 10 minutes on a 14-5 run that carried the Huskies into Monday night's second round contest with the host Terrapins (31-3), champions of the Big Ten Conference.

Second-seeded Maryland took Saturday's opener beating Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona 74-58, though the outcome is a little deceptive.

The 15th-seeded Gaels (23-12), trailing by 19 early in the third quarter, whittled that differential away to seven at 60-53 at about the same time early in the fourth before Maryland, which has appeared in the two previous Women's Final Fours, stopped the slide and  went on to the win.

Meanwhile, Penn lived off its prime defense to stay alive but couldn't totally overcome its missed opportunities on offense or Washington's stamina down the stretch built from a starting lineup that almost sees all 40 minutes in tact.

"I was really proud of our group," McLaughlin said, noting, "It's hard to tell them that right now because they're feeling a little (emotional) pain. We had a great run. We came here really prepared. It meant the world.

"I thought we had segments of the game right where we wanted it to be. The control when we needed. I thought we had around five empty possessions at a critical time without scoring, we didn't really get great shots, we made a couple of run-outs that created a gap for us we couldn't recover from," he continued.

"I think we competed at a really high level but a couple of possessions there really hurt us."

Junior Sydney Stipanovich, the Ivy player of the year from Penn, had a double double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, while sophomore Michelle Nwokedi, who gives the Quakers a powerful inside force with Stipanovich, had 10 points, seven rebounds and all  of Penn's six blocked shots of the Huskies.

Anna Ross had 13 points fueled by nailing 3-of-4 attempted treys. Lauren Whitlatch and Kasey Chambers each scored six of pairs of 3-pointers.

Plum was as explosive as ever with 24 points but the Quakers made her work for much of those.

However, the native of suburban San Diego also fed her teammates for seven assists.

Talia Walton scored 18 points, Alexus Atchley scored 11 and Chantel Osahor grabbed 10 rebounds.

The two telling statistics in Washington's advantage was 30-12 in the paint and 15-3 off turnovers resulting in 12-0 comparing fast break points.

The game was tied six times  and the lead changed 11 times.

Penn has a great chance to be back in the mix next season since the Quakers don't lose any key players to graduation though it will take a little extra doing since the Ivy League recently announced no longer being the last conference deciding NCAA men's and women's representatives through regular-season play.

The men and women will each field four-team Ivy tournaments on the regular season final weekend, starting out in 2017 at Penn's Palestra. Also with Princeton's breakthrough as the first Ivy at-large women's team in the NCAA field -- the Tigers lost down the stretch Friday to West Virginia in Columbus, Ohio -- the Quakers with a good record and RPI could earn similar status if they don't repeat as league champions.

In the first game here, all-American candidate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 19 points for Maryland, while Brene Mosely off the bench had 15 points, starter Briona Jones, another all-America candidate, scored 11, a number matched by reserve Tierney Pfirman, and starter Malina Howard scored 10.

Philecia Gilmore had 21 points for Iona, while Marina Lizarazu scored 11, and reserve Treyanna Clay scored 10.

Penn's exit leaves just Temple and Rutgers as area teams still alive in postseason play with both teams in action Sunday in the second round of the Women's NIT.

Temple travels to Quinnipiac, where the Owls narrowly lost early in the season, while Rutgers will host Virginia.

Villanova fell at home to Hofstra, losing down the stretch 82-74 at the Pavilion in second round WNIT action Saturday night.

Katherine Coyer, the twin sister of injured senior Caroline Coyer, scored 21 points for Villanova (20-12) while freshman Adrianna Hahn scored 18.

The Pride (24-8) of the Colonial Athletic Association finished third behind Drexel, which fell to across-town neighbor Temple at home Friday night. Hofstra will play the winner of the Rutgers-Virginia game in the third round with date and time to be determined.

Jakelle King-Gilchrist had a career-high 22 points, hitting a pair of critical treys in the final period for Hofstra. Anjie White scored 14, Darius Faulk had 17 points and dealt eight assists, while Aleana Leon and Kelly Loftus each scored 11 points.

Villanova could have its best team in quite a while next season and may even be favored to win the Big East with the eligibility of Jannah Tucker, a transfer from Tennessee, becoming active and additional help from some talented freshmen along the way.

Alex Louin and Megan Quinn, likely to play again the Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer League in a few months, also return.

Temple loses just one player.

While Penn headed back home after Saturday's defeat, your Guru will stay here for the Washington-Maryland game Monday night, go to any reachable WNIT games at midweek if they involve Rutgers or Temple, and then head to the Bridgeport (Conn.) NCAA Regional next weekend likely highlighted by three-time defending Connecticut and seniors Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck.

 -- Mel   


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